BitBounce - using the blockchain to control email spam
Today I attended the Ethereum Meetup in San Francisco. There was a presentation and Q&A by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong featuring a demo of their new Toshi developer environment. After the main event, a couple of people got up to publicize their blockchain based project. The second one caught my attention and that was by BitBounce.
BitBounce already has a working system which can be hooked up to your email provider. It is designed to give you control over what email you see, and give bulk mailers or people really keen to reach you a way to do that by playing for the pleasure. BitBounce will check your inbound mail and any that is not from a whitelisted email address (it syncs that whitelist with your existing contacts) will be put in a special "unpaid" folder. The sender will receive an email telling the send they can pay you the equivalent of $0.05 in Bitcoin to ensure the email is delivered to you (no guarantees you'll read it and respond though).
They also offer an "incentivized response" feature that gives a sender an option to pay a significant sum like $10 which will be returned if you don't respond to them within a certain amount of time. They even have a VIP version of this for contacting named VIP destinations - currently, they have Tim Draper (the Draper of venture capital fund DFJ) who will read your email if you pay $25 in Bitcoin.
It embraces some interesting concepts - use of micropayments to control access to your inbox. Disincentivising true bulk mailers who could not afford to pay $0.05 to reach millions of people. Gating access to your inbox with your list of known contacts as a whitelist. Creating incentivised access to your attention with big payments that make it worth your while - imagine if you're some well-known celebrity and get 100 emails a day offering you $10 to read them. That's an easy $1,000 - especially if you actually have you admin read them.
So as just hinted at - it has flaws too - do we really think Tim Draper will read an email for $25? He has billions of dollars, earns millions per year and even a minute of his time costs more than $25. And how does this interact with Google current spam filtering and bulk email bucketing? I'm on way too many lists, most that I opted into that don't have a real person behind them. Therefore I carefully need to whitelist all those senders or I'll never see the email. Ditto all those password reminders and other one-off verification emails we get. I think I'd rather have this work by looking in my actual Spam folder and contacting all those senders to let them know my email can be prioritized.
That last comment makes me think it would also be amazing if it could give senders a bidding feature to send more to push their way up the reading list to get read sooner. If I have 1000 spam emails that have paid $0.05 for me to read them and they are at the bottom that is very different from if I have 5 and they are at the bottom. Might be worth them spending a bit more
Anyway, it looks like a pretty solid implementation of an idea we've all seen talked about many times before. They have actually created their own token on the Ethereum blockchain called Orca which will be used in the future to make payments without Bitcoin overheads and with the enhanced speed for Ethereum blockchain. There's an ICO for it in the near future and it is good to see actual projects that have working code and viable solutions to real problems behind an ICO. I hope there are many more in the future.